1989 – A Statesman Opens Up

  • Mountainfilm

No one was more surprised than 40-year-old academic economist Miklós Németh when he was named the Prime Minister of Hungary. The year was 1989 and communism was on the brink of collapse and Németh, an outsider with few friends in the Party, was suddenly responsible for the seemingly impossible task of saving the country from bankruptcy.




90 min


Anders Østergaard


1989 – A Statesman Opens Up is a creative documentary and a high-politics drama about the collapse of the Iron Curtain. A young technocrat, Miklós Németh, becomes Hungary’s new prime minister to save the country’s appalling
economy. He decides to remove the expensive border control apparatus from the state budget. Thousands of refugees from East Germany are encouraged by rumours that the Hungarian border to Austria will be opened and decide to make a go for it. However, Nemeth’s decision has set him up against formidable adversaries and communist hardliners. A young East German couple is caught up in the political power game: the young man is finally shot dead at the border. This tragic event paradoxically accelerates Nemeth’s final decision to open up the borders. Soon after, the Berlin Wall falls.

The film follows the personal account of the then prime minister of Hungary, Miklós Németh, underpinned by archive footage and reconstructions of various scenes and conversations based on comprehensive journalistic research and detailed testimony. Reconstructed conversations from confidential meetings have been re-recorded with speakers to superimpose the resulting sound track onto real-life film and video footage of the historical persons concerned in similar settings. This device has enabled Østergaard to recreate the actual events with the personalities who were genuinely involved, thus retaining their authenticity and the spirit of the times. It also allows the audience to reflect on the historic events covered by the film and the way they interrelate.

Directed by
Anders Østergaard

Written by 
Anders Østergaard
Erzsébet Rácz

Pernille Bech-Christensen
Szilvia Ruszev

Simon Plum

Stein Berge Svendsen

Supervising Producer
Georg Tschurtschenthaler

Line Producer
Kathrin Isberner
Eszter Gyárfás
Júlia Berkes
Cecilia Valsted

Historical Advisor
Hans-Hermann Hertle

Tamás Dévényi
Péter Benjámin Lukács
Márk Hörömpöli
Oliver Stahn
Falco Seliger
Thomas Koerber

Lise Lense-Møller

Christian Beetz
Viktória Petrányi
Kristian Mosvold
Stefan Frost 
Henrik Underbjerg

Martin Pieper (ZDF/ARTE)
Mette Hoffmann Meyer (DR)
Rolf Bergmann (RBB)
Barbara Truyen (VPRO)
Peter Gottschalk (ARTE G.E.I.E.)
Jenny Westergård (Yle)
Tore Tomter (NRK)
Daniel Pynnönen (UR)
Katrin Rajasaare (ERR)

1989 – A Statesman Opens Up
  • „Just in diesem Moment überraschen uns die aus dem Theaterbereich stammenden jungen Regisseure Hans Block und Moritz Riesewieck mit einem erstaunlichen Dokumentarfilm, der seit Monaten Publikum und Kritik auf den wichtigsten Festivals der Welt elektrisiert. Völlig zu Recht: Es ist, als würden einem die Scheuklappen weggerissen, als sähe man das, was sich seit Jahren direkt vor unseren Augen abspielt, zum ersten Mal unverschleiert... eine fesselnde ,Doku noir' mit höchstem Anspruch...Dieser Film müsste an allen Schulen gezeigt werden.“
    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

A production by

  • Beetz
  • grifa

In co-production with

  • proton
  • substance film
  • radiator
  • zdf
  • dr
  • rbb
  • vpro

In collaboration with

  • arte
  • yle
  • nrk
  • ur
  • err

Supported by

West Danish Film Fund
Nordisk Film & TV Fond
Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg
Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur
Norwegian Film Institute
The Audio and Visual Fund, NORWEGEN
The Fritt Ord Foundation
The Audio and Visual Fund
South Norwegian Film Centre
East Norwegian Film Centre